Summer is the season for travel. As such, we tend to travel by car and as we do, I am reminded that the Great Migration was accomplished mostly by train. The train plays the transportation role in four of the five Bledsoe sisters stories. But in the first part of the twentieth century, the age of the car was on the horizon and in my Golden Heart-nominated story, it is the road that plays a central part in developing the relationship between Champ and his lost love, Delie.
A Champion’s Heart is a road story. The road story is a vagabond trope and greatly appeals to the United States mindset. Why?
On the road you were:
To be as free as you wanted to be.
To go wherever the road took you without care or worry.
To celebrate the wide and seemingly unending vistas in a large land.
The road story has such an appeal to the American (and I mean United States here) spirit because in Europe, these desires were not easily accomplished. However, for African Americans in the first part of the twentieth century, the road could be a place of danger, threat and harm. It was better to take the train and endure any indignities for hours, instead of days. So, when we hit the road this summer, I’m reminded that I must not take the amenities of the road for granted because now:
We can stop and use the state-sponsored restrooms as we wish.
We can stop and purchase food to eat as long as we have the money to do so.
We can even stop and enjoy the splendors of the mountains, without being asked why we are there.
Champ and Delie, accompanied by orphan children, did not have these advantages and these complications play a role in their developing love story. Next week, I plan to talk about these complications more thoroughly.
What does road travel mean to you?
I remember the road trips to my grandparents in the mountains. The trips were long but we stopped at Stuckeys for their chicken salad sandwiches and pecan divinity. They were magic trips. You made me think how different the trip would have been forme if we could not stop at certain places. I have read about how African Americans handled long trips and wonder how they balanced the caution with the anticipation that travel always brings.
Insightful as always, Julie! I wonder how those African American parents did it too, maintaining their dignity and still managing keeping up that anticipation for their children until the dread day reality hit. I try always remember that the ways and means by which I travel are a blessing. Thanks for coming by!
I remember when I was a child (early 1960’s?) on a trip to Florida when we stopped to look at the ocean and there was a sign that said the beach was for “Coloreds Only”. I didn’t really “get” what that meant, except that I felt guilty that we were trespassing on a beach that belonged to “coloreds”.
Of course, I did think it was odd that beaches were segregated like that, because we didn’t have that up north. As I grew older, I thought that meant that we northerners treated everyone equally. It wasn’t until I moved away from the rural area and went to college and had a close friend who was African American that I began to understand how prejudiced I really was and how many facets are involved in racial relations.
It’s all a learning process isn’t it? To me, it all seems so strange that the merchants back them did not understand how their prejudice amounted to lost revenue. I mean, how foolish was that? Money is green! Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for educating us through your books and blog. I grew up in the segregated south and I guess I was like Susana. I didn’t realize what was going on. I thought colored people wanted to keep to themselves. Birds of a feather was the adage. It wasn’t until I was in jr high school and began following the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that I understood. But I was never prejudiced, just ignornant. I gave my life to Christ when I was 11 so I knew what was right when I saw it. There were plenty who were prejudiced though. I remember at my high school graduation, the big scandal was that one of our classmates was dating a black boy. When I said, “What’s wrong with that?” I remember the shocked looks I got…but I didn’t get any answers.
This is why the education that I spoke of last week is so important. The more that we know about one another, it seems to me, the more understanding we have. Also, I tend to think of racism as a waste of precious resources. We never know who might have an idea for feeding people, or discovering a cure for a disease. If people were allowed to be brought to their full potential, then we might discover our full power. Thanks for stopping by cp!
Piper Huguley 2013 Golden Heart Finalist Twitter: @writerpiper Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/piper.huguley Blog: http://piperhuguley.com
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